UFC 221: Yoel Romero turns off Luke Rockhold's lights in third round

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Rockhold is eligible to win a UFC interim middleweight title if he wins while Romero is not eligible after failing to make weight for the bout.

Then, Romero missed weight ahead of UFC 221, which meant he was ineligible to win the belt.

Yoel Romero lands a blow on Luke Rockhold during their bout at UFC 221 in Perth. Whittaker previously defeated Romero by decision to become interim champion.

It was a tactic the 26-year-old upstart would turn to eight more times over the final two rounds to grind out a unanimous decision victory over the veteran knockout artist, earning him the biggest win of his career and pushing his unbeaten streak to five.

If Rockhold can stay on the outside and pick Romero apart, while keeping a fast pace, he'll become a two-time champion and go on to face Robert Whittaker.

Rockhold showed great offensive striking and pivoted away from Romero's hooks masterfully in Round 1.

Romero, ranked No. 1 at middleweight, was a replacement Saturday for Whittaker, who backed out of the title fight January 12 after enduring a medley of ailments.

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This now marks the fourth professional loss of Rockhold's career. Whittaker was supposed to fight Rockhold on Saturday, but had to pull out with a variety of ailments, including chickenpox and a staph infection.

Making his UFC debut on commentary, Jimmy Smith noted in the second that Rockhold seemed content at boxing range.

But the 26-year old American played it wisely and changed things up, taking Hunt down to the canvas, where the two spent most of the remainder of the fight as Blaydes superior fitness eventually told, the judges scoring it 30-26, 30-26 and 29-27 in the USA fighter's favour.

"Rockhold is a very good athlete and an incredible fighter", Romero said after the fight. Romero showed signs of figuring out Rockhold's timing; he had brief spurts of action in a round that would be hard to score but probably went to the former UFC champion.

Had Romero made weight, I would have likely leaned toward him. "I felt really good".

If Asker wants to be considered more than division fodder, he needs to get some momentum going.

- Yoel Romero def. Luke Rockhold, middleweights, KO, third round (1:28).

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